European VP Schinas: ‘We have never been closer with our American friends and partners as we are now’

On June 2, 2022, Margaritis Schinas, vice-president of the European Commission, joined Frances Burwell, distinguished fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Europe Center, for a conversation on transatlantic relations through the prism of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, highlighting key aspects of the vice president’s portfolio, promoting the European way of life, including strengthening resilience in critical sectors, cybersecurity, and migration.

The next phase for cybersecurity

“The era of European naivety about cybersecurity is over . . . we’re building a cyber shield at different levels.”

Margaritis Schinas
  • The vice-president noted that the European Union (EU) is changing its regulatory framework while at the same time building capacity. Specifically, he mentioned that the Commission has proposed two complementary directives: the Network Information Systems Directive and the Critical Infrastructure Directive. In addition to regulatory changes, the Commission has EU teams with experts to protect the institutions themselves and to work with member states on cybersecurity.
  • The vice-president outlines two concerns that the EU is facing: lack of trust in the institutions by member states as well as a lack of a talent pool with sufficient domain expertise.
  • Lastly, the vice-president applauded the efforts of Ukraine not only for its military operations but also its cybersecurity efforts, with successes achieved with the help of the EU and the United States.

New challenges for migration and asylum

“The French presidency is working very actively now on a draft agreement on the bulk of the pact asylum proposals. And I’m very confident that they will make it. But I also understand that the situation we’re having now, and with the Ukrainian [refugees] in the European Union, is also a de facto accelerator.

Margaritis Schinas
  • With almost six million Ukrainian refugees having escaped to other European countries, the vice-president elaborated on the blanket protections that offer access to the job market, education and health systems, and residence permits across the EU. He mentioned that the EU is currently working to create a system of validating the qualifications of Ukrainian refugees in Europe.
  • When asked about the different approach to the refugee crisis now and in 2013, the vice-president noted that geography and timing account for it, and reiterated that the principles of asylum in the EU remain the same.
  • Lastly, he mentioned that the Commission is working on a proposal for legal migration, with member states being ready to move forward with the idea once there is an agreement on the EU Migration Pact.

Where US-EU cooperation is headed

“Of course, the issues of international crime, migration, [and] cyber are at the heart of our cooperation, but we proposed, two weeks ago, a new initiative to fight child sexual abuse online, which is necessary, on which we would need the cooperation of the US government, but also the platforms—the companies.”

Margaritis Schinas
  • While in Washington, the vice-president is meeting with US Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas to discuss transatlantic cooperation on various issues with a special focus on this new initiative to fight child sexual abuse. The EU will need the support of the digital platforms for this effort, and the technology companies seem open to the idea. 
  • This issue is especially important to the EU since 70 percent of such content is hosted on EU servers. The challenge, however, is difficult to address since this is first time the Commission is venturing into issues of privacy and encryption following passage of EU privacy laws. He underlined that a transatlantic approach to this issue is crucial.

Watch the full event

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Image: European Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas participated in an open discussion with the Transatlantic Council with Frances Burwell, at the Atlantic Council in Washington, DC on Thursday June 2, 2022 (Photo by Tasos Katopodis)